Zanzibar 8 days
February 11-18 2013 (ex-Zanzibar) or
Zanzibar 12 days
February 11-22 2013 (ex-Zanzibar)
Zanzibar is a paradise island. But it's better than that. It's a paradise island with great beaches, a fantastic mix of cultural influences, a car-free warren of streets that is Stone Town, and some of the best music in east Africa. Zanzibar's luxuriant taarab orchestras are like a dhow in full sail - finely-crafted, stately and magnificent.
With the island at the centre of the lucrative spice (and slave) trade, the Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Portuguese and British have all left their imprint. Today, Zanzibar is part of Tanzania and predominantly Muslim, but there are still active Christian churches and Hindu temples. Gorgeous wooden dhows with triangular sails are out on the Indian Ocean and the place still feels like a Swahili trading port, which is what it has been for centuries.
The Sauti za Busara (Sounds of Wisdom) Festival is the best introduction to the local sounds. Its focus is the Swahili coastal regions of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, although other artists come from elsewhere in Africa and further afield. There's both traditional music and Bongo Flava hip-hop which is hugely popular with the local youth. There's usually music from one of the celebrated taarab orchestras, Culture Musical Club or Ikhwani Safaa, and the, hopefully immortal singer, Bi Kidude who's well into her 90s. You may not know that Queen's Freddie Mercury was born in Stone Town and is commemorated at Mercury's Restaurant on the sea.
For three days events are held in the historic Old Fort in Stone Town. Take our 8-day tour (10 days ex-London) and you will catch all of this. Then there are two more days of events which are fringe events in other parts of Stone Town and out over the rest of the island. Stay on for our longer 12- day tour (14 days ex-London) and you can catch these too.
All Songlines Music Travellers will receive an information sheet about the local music plus recommended recordings and DVDs.
Zanzibar - 8 Days Itinerary
Day 1 Mon
Today we meet our Songlines Music Travel Leader at the hotel in Stone Town. After checking in, the rest of the day is left free to spend the first few hours in Zanzibar wandering the bustling streets of Stone Town, watching the dhows in the harbour, and soaking in the atmosphere. Make sure to try the tea and coffee houses. Alcohol is available in the many hotel bars, but not generally around town.
Day 2 Tues
After breakfast we meet our guide and spend the morning in Stone Town exploring the maze of narrow lanes and alleyways that radiate back from the waterfront. We'll visit the spice and food markets. The afternoon is left free; you may want to sip a coffee and watch the world go by, or take an afternoon sail on one of the dhows that dot the harbour..
Days 3 & 4 Wed & Thurs
The days are left free for you to pursue your own interests. Zanzibar is sometimes referred to as the Spice Island and your Travel Leader can arrange an optional tour around the island to see the spices close up. It's extraordinary to see the island's spice plantations and gardens. If you are in a more indolent mood, an alternative trip might be to the beaches of the north and east coasts for some good seafood and a chance to top up the tan. In the evenings we will get a taste of the music that's in store for us at some of the fringe events.
Days 5-7 Fri-Sun
For the next three days Stone Town is taken over by music as the Sauti za Busara Festival takes over. But there's still time in the mornings to go swimming, visit the former slave market and museum, or the House of Wonders on the Forodhani Gardens waterfront.
Day 8 Mon
After a feast of music our tour comes to an end. Time to continue our travels in East Africa, or head for the airport and the flight home.
Zanzibar - 12 Days Itinerary
For those with more time, extend your stay on Zanzibar with a few days on our beach extension. Getting it off to an exciting start there is usually a beach party, with the musicians who have been playing at the festival, on one of the beaches a day or so after the music has finished in Stone Town; grab a taxi and enjoy the party. The rest of the week is for lazy days on the beach, perhaps a dhow excursion, and certainly some good seafood.
Days 1-7 as above
Day 8 Mon
It is just a short drive from Stone Town to the beaches on the other side of the island, and before lunch we should be settled in at our beach accommodation. Today or tomorrow there may be a beach party with the musicians from the festival.
Days 9-11 Tues-Thurs
The next three days are for exploring more of the island, going out on a dhow, or lazing on the beach, sipping a few drinks at a beach bar or two. The food is delicious.
Day 12 Fri
After breakfast today your transport will be waiting to take you across the island and back to the airport for your flight home.
Tour price 8 days (excluding flights) £795 per person
Tour price 12 days (excluding flights) £1,070 per person
For information and reservations, call Songlines Music Travel on 020 8505 2582